Christian Ubertini


Place / year: Elephantine, Egypt / 1999-2000
Organisation: Swiss institute for archeological reasearches in Egypt
Function: Architect


Temple's remaining blocks



Restitution of an inner wall

Restitution of an inner wall

Restitution of an external wall

Inner courtyard corner blocks

Wall's top blocks

Block connection in plan

Restitution hypothesis of the temple's layout

Restitution hypothesis

Known examples of temples belonging to the same typology as the temple X(in red)

Block connection in plan

Block connection in view

Possible temple's most similiar example found in the nearby island of Philae

The archaeological excavations of the ancient town of Elephantine near Aswan, conducted by the German Institute and the Swiss Institute in Cairo, have brought to light numerous scattered blocks and fragments of the Ptolemaic and Roman periods (330 BC - 100 AD). These blocks are the only remaining evidence of so far unknown structures that were entirely dismantled during the Late Antiquity and of which no traces about their location or form exist today. Following the epigraphical study by the Egyptologist Ewa Laskowska-Kusztal, an architectural study was carried out in order to propose restitution hypothesis of the original structures.

The restitution study of the "Baukomplex X", built by Ptolemy IV (225-205 b.C.), has been carried out on the basis of only 118 small decorated blocks which have considerably limited our ambitions. In this context, the objective of the study was mainly to identify the temple's typology and to support our hypothesis with judicious contemporary examples. Despite the scarcity of the material, the analysis of the stone elaboration and the fine observation of the tool marks still preserved on the blocks, provided capital information which could lead to unexpected results.

The restitution shows a temple shaped by a two rooms naos and preceded by a courtyard supposely roofed with a light wooden structure. Evidences show that the inside and outside walls were widely decorated by Ptolemy IV. This typology, found in Egypt from the beginning of the Ptolemaic period, is largely represented in Nubia and in the Aswan region notably in Philae. Several examples such as the temple of Dakka and that of Arensnuphis in Philae were precisely built by Ptolemy IV the builder of the "Temple X". Other blocks decorated by Ptolemy V Epiphanes (204-181 b.C.) which can not be integrated in the core building might suggest that the temple was extended by one more room at the back of temple. Contemporary examples of such extensions can also be found in the Philae temples.

Christian Ubertini 2001
Schweizerisches Institut für Ägyptische Bauforschung und Altertumskunde in Kairo